A Guide to a New Way of Working
Papa Was a Digital Bedouin: Wherever He Laid His Mac, Was His Home (Office)

“Digital Bedouin” was one of the new styles of an Internet company that grew up after the DotCom crash in 2000. It grew out of the availability then-new of mobile technologies like smart-phones, powerful laptops and wireless high-speed Internet as well as changes in work culture, and a growing host of businesses designed to service the mobile worker. Taken together, these advances made it unnecessary for many people to operate out of traditional office space. Fast forward to 2008 and the term itself might not have caught on- but the ideas have. This book then looks at how to apply them to your life and job.

The book itself is part self-help/Lifehacker, part informational. As an example, the chapter on e-mail is particularly useful: It starts with the problem of “what’s wrong with e-mail”, suggests some ways to deal with it mentally and technical tools to help do this. This idea that technology is only a part of a solution or a tool to help to reach that solution is a thread that runs through this book. I’m tempted to call it a “self-help” book but don’t want to imply it’s somehow a light read about finding your computer’s aura or something. Instead, it’s a mix of different approaches ranging from a list of tools like be they websites or Firefox plug-ins to other resources, definitions and quotes. For instance, in the “escape from e-mail” section they mention one idea, “e-mail bankruptcy”, give a quick summary of this unfamiliar term (to me at least) and then go on to discuss it’s possible uses.

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There’s a lot of links in this book, and while it sometimes seems like every fourth link is for the Web Worker Daily blog (which the book grew out of- so it fits, I guess), the information is in general good. At the same time, it might seem like a lot of material to cover in a small-sized (15x23cm), 280-odd page book, the information is concise, with not a lot of filler.

The layout is a combination of lists, beak-out boxes and quotes mixed into the text. Like a lot of these books, it can be read front to back, or just flipping to a chapter that interests you. As an example, there are chapters on Instant Messaging etiquette or conference call planning provide several useful tips that might save readers making a few beginners’ mistakes. Some ideas, for example, providing an update message (e.g. “busy until 4 pm, e-mail me”) in your IM tag-line are good ideas I hadn’t thought of before.

The last four chapters are a lot more personality-orientated, besides that little problem of managing your money, there’s a fair bit on keeping a work/life balance- particularly important when the potential to always be “at work” exists. It’s an easy read, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to make the most of free-lancing, as many companies just won’t be ready for all the ideas presented here, but that’s the price of getting in at the start.